It’s amazing that anytime someone hears that we are home schooling, their first response is that they can never try it because they are very indisciplined and not patient. My response is usually… I am the most impatient person I have ever met and yet here I am…. Homeschooling!
Homeschooling is a very un-Kenyan thing
Our journey to homeschooling began years ago as Kevin and I interacted with families that were doing it. In those days we thought they were crazy and truth is we are also as crazy as they were those days because homeschooling is a very un-Kenyan thing to do. Those kids are now adults, homeschooled through high school; some are working and some in university. Model kids in every sense of the word, and the reason we can confidently homeschool our kids. This is because we have seen the fruit of homeschooling, tasted it, and it is good.
One of the decisions we made before we even got babies is that they would go to school at four years and not earlier. We had no basis to that decision other than we wanted to be the primary influencers in our children’s lives at that stage in their lives.
When baby number two came into the picture
Along the way, when baby number two came into the picture, we took our three and a half year old to Play Group next door. The plan was three days a week for a few hours in the morning. That plan went downhill and she was back home. Her class mates were one and a half year olds. She started regressing in skills like potty training that we had long put behind us. The school started pushing us to move her to higher classes so she can start learning. This was because she was too bright for play group and too old for her class. So she was home for another year and finally went to school when she was four and a half and her brother joined her when he was four. Two years later we brought them back home and there our homeschooling journey began.
What made us make the decision to homeschool?
It was that voice deep within that guides and directs us that caused us to make that decision. We felt called to homeschool our children. And also to in a way step out into the deep waters and to show others in our generation that there is an alternative way to educate our children and it works. We knew many other Kenyans in the generation before us who had homeschooled or were homeschooling. But we didn’t know parents in our generation that were doing it.
The other reason was also a realization that we wanted to be part of the character growth of our children. We wanted to be there as they made the different transitions in their lives and we wanted to be the closest people in their lives. The saying that an education without character is useless rang true to us. We wanted to give our children more than an education. And what better way to do that than to homeschool. Since it gives us a greater opportunity to pass on our values to them daily; not just by what we say, but how we walk the walk.
We realized that each of our kids was different
And finally, a dissatisfaction with the school offerings. Kenya is a very academic driven country and there is nothing wrong with that really. But we wanted more than that. An exposure to sports and the arts and music and drama and culture and entrepreneurship from an early age is what we wanted .But we were not able to get all that from school.
We also realized that each of our kids was different with different giftings and abilities. We could not expect a school that has its own agenda and goal and curriculum to design a different program for each of our kids to cater for all their differences. So homeschooling was the way to go. It has given us the freedom to look at our kids and ask their Father to give us the wisdom on how to teach them and train them according to their bent.
The far military path of the ACE curriculum
Back to the beginning – our kids were in an ACE school and so when we got them off formal schooling we continued with the far military path of the ACE curriculum. I loved some of the aspects of the curriculum: the kids learnt to set their own goals and accomplish them; they learnt how to work without supervision.They also learnt to do the right thing even when no one is watching (they scored their own work and graded themselves). Faithfulness and honesty were key virtues – very rare in our society today.
I was however unable to continue with the curriculum. This was because I wanted to mix and match different curriculums that I had been exposed to. So we are now Eclectic homeschoolers. which is the name given to homeschoolers who use different curricular for different subjects as opposed to a boxed curriculum like ACE which had all subjects under it and is under one body.
What benefits have we experienced?
We have experienced many benefits of homeschooling in the short time we have been at it. As mentioned the most significant one has been time. We have extended time with the kids. As a result we have been able to celebrate their ups and downs and been there for many of their firsts.
It has been possible to see when things are amiss especially when it comes to behavior and redirect them in the right paths early.
We have seen them extend love as siblings and build their bond as friends. Protecting each other, taking care of each other, fight☺, make up and all the joys and not so joyous times of brotherhood.
We have also been able to have drums, piano, violin and guitar classes right in the middle of the day as part of class. As opposed to looking for time in the evenings and during the weekends to expose them to the music world. They have been able to go for ballet, swimming and voice classes and still get academics covered. All in all we feel we have more time to expose them to both worlds.
Their goal is not to go to school
The other thing is that they have been able to go for life changing field trips. Recently they have visited recycling industries. … Kitengela glass and the flip flop factory. Hearing the stories of the founders, who saw a problem that was affecting the environment and looked for a way to sort the problem. And at the same time help the community by providing a source of income for them has been a point of mind transformation for our kids. Their goal is not to go to school, perform well and get a job. They are now looking at how they can make a difference in their community, create employment and transform their nation.
Our kids have also been able to get involved in our family businesses. They go with daddy to work and learn about the media industry, how to shoot a good TV advert, how to set up and use video and photography equipment. Again, this has gone along way in transforming their mindsets.
What about their socialization?
One of the main concerns of those around us has been the socialization of our kids. How will they learn how to be social? How will they learn how to interact with other children? Those are very key concerns and I am never sure how to respond. One because having interacted with homeschooled kids before we began the journey, I found them to be very well socialized. They were confident and well spoken, not just to their age mates but even to those who were older than them. During our visit to their families, the kids would be the ones to welcome us and engage us as we waited for their parents. This to me was a mark of well socialized kids.
Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child
Kevin and I have been teaching LEA (a parenting class) at our church. And one of the main lessons we teach the parents is how they are to bring up their kids. This ensures that they are well socially integrated into society. I believe that the role of bringing up a socially integrated child into the community is not the schools or other children the age of our kids, but the role of parents. Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child. Therefore, choosing to take my kids to school should be for more than just socialization. This is because kids will exchange their foolish ways with each other, which to me is negative socialization.
Having said that, our kids have numerous opportunities to interact with other children their age, and even younger and older ones. We are part of what we call a co-op. This is made up of a group of families that come together and do various activities together. We have a field trip each month, a community service day where the kids go to one of the childrens’ homes and volunteer every month, sports and music. They are also part of a swimming club, and swim three times a week with other kids. Church is another space where they interact with other children. We attend weekly and they are part of the kids worship team. We feel that they are well integrated and able to relate and get along with both the young and the old.
How would a parent handle topics they are not able to teach?
Homeschooling is structured in a way that Parents are the teachers, or one parent teachers all the kids, all the subjects. I am not a teacher by training, but by calling as I like to put it. The Bible, which is the primary guide in our family says,“train a child in the way he should go, and when he grows up , he shall not depart from it.” So I keep claiming my teaching qualifications based on that verse.
There are many homeschooling curricula, mostly American and some British. Some Kenyan families have opted to use 8-4-4 which I believe is a great curriculum. But which in my opinion has been watered down over the years and is implemented in the wrong way. One can homeschool, all the way to high school or opt to transition their kids to a formal high school.
Most private universities in Kenya accept homeschooled children and a few in the recent past have been accepted into the public universities. Some students have done private studies for IGSE and GCE , sat for the exams and gotten the papers that they need to apply for university. Some families have prepared their kids for KCPE and KCSE, having used other curriculum throughout for their homeschooling lives. So how to proceed is really a family based decision depending on how they choose to proceed. (******note to self: I may need to research more on the options available as I am not too familiar with all)
As a parent you are just a supervisor or a guide
All homeschooling curricula are designed in a way that anyone who can read and write, can teach a child. Most come with a teachers manual and the student’s workbook/ journal…here is the reason why, as a parent you are just a supervisor or a guide. You show your kids where and how to learn, you give them the access to information. And teach them how to fish, then you let them go fishing. As a parent you guide them. You don’t fish, you teach them how to fish. So a homeschooling family will have many books, subscriptions to many educational resources, access to libraries. Additionally, we will go for many field trips and do a whole lot of science experiments. At higher levels e.g. High school, some families have opted to employ teachers for example physics or chemistry teachers to assist in teaching their kids.
Let me end this by saying three things:
One, homeschooling is a family decision (and this does not include the extended family). Both parents need to be in agreement for the homeschool to succeed. Many will question why you have chosen that path. But knowing that Kevin and I have agreed on this path is what matters, everything and everyone else aligns to that path (and this includes the kids). Knowing also that its God who has called us to homeschool our kids is really all that matters and its him we are accountable and answerable to.
Two, you will never have it all together. If you feel that it’s a path you would love to tread, just start from where you are. Pick your kid’s school books and start up from where they left in school. Go to pinterest if your have a preschooler or kindergartener, there is a ton of information in there. Read. Research…. But start!
Three, plug into a homeschoolers community. It will be the best decision for your homeschool. And a great place for you and your kids to connect with families that are in the same journey.